(By Randy Lane) In the late-80s, Mark St. John (Leighton Group Director of Programming) and I collaborated to build a new morning show for I95 Birmingham. We had a fun and lively dinner with two talents meeting for the first time, Mark Thompson and Brian Phelps. We decided to try them out on the air to see if there was chemistry and potential.
At 1 AM from my Hilton hotel room, my drowsiness suddenly vanished when Mark and Brian first cracked their mics. It was magic! Mark and Brian were an instant sensation in Birmingham and less than two years later they hit the majors at KLOS Los Angeles.
That was an easy one. Fast forward to 2022 and it’s the opposite of easy. The talent pool is down to a puddle, Covid and polarization have people resisting anything new while craving familiarity and nostalgia. Simultaneously, live and local continues to grow in listener appeal.
The days of instantly successful new shows are over. The profusion of competitive new media, a shrinking audience attention span, and much of corporate radio’s short-term quarterly mentality work against new morning shows succeeding.
Developing new shows takes patience. You’re looking at one to two years for a show to achieve ratings and revenue success. In the long run, it’s worth the time and effort because high-profile talent gives your station long-term loyalty and a competitive edge.
Seven Steps for Starting a New Morning Show
Planning a strategy before the show goes on air is critical to a successful launch.
- Competitive review: What are your competitor’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to your show?
- Define your show’s brand: What do they stand for, want to be known for, and what distinctive brand attribute could potentially set them apart from competitors?
- Role and character definitions: Clearly define each player’s on and off-air roles. Identify characteristics that distinguish and contrast each character.
- Content filter: Clearly describe your target audience. Start with more topical content and benchmarks that are relevant, common ground subjects that the audience is interested in.
- Conduct a market localization exercise: If the show is new to the market, this exercise will help the cast get to know the market’s attitudes, areas of town, local celebs, and hot-button issues.
- Listener interaction: Interacting with listeners is one of the best ways to establish a relationship with the audience. See Jeff McHugh’s recent article on tactics for getting callers on-air.
- Studio video setup: Video has become fundamental. Setup in-studio cameras, test lighting, arrange/build backgrounds, and the space where you will be filming as if it were a TV show.
Soft launches are preferable to pre-hyping a new show. It puts pressure on the show and can create listener resistance (“Oh, yeah? Prove it to me”). It works best to simply let listeners know a new show is starting Monday.
Contact Randy Lane by e-mail at [email protected].